Congresswoman Anna Eshoo

Representing the 18th District of California

Eshoo Demands Accountability from PG&E at Congressional Hearing

January 29, 2020
Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C.— Congresswoman Anna G. Eshoo (D-CA) questioned PG&E CEO Bill Johnson about the utility’s widespread intentional blackouts at an Energy and Commerce hearing on the impact of wildfires on the power sector and the environment.

“I don’t presuppose that everyone in Washington D.C. knows who PG&E is or what they’ve done. Now, Californians know it, I certainly know it, and my constituents have lived it,” Rep. Eshoo said to PG&E CEO Bill Johnson. “In your testimony on page three you indicate it will take 12 to 14 years—12 to 14 years—to harden and strengthen the grid. That time frame implies that you’ve deferred a lot of the maintenance over the last 10 years. So, my first question is: why did the deferred maintenance happen and why was this allowed to happen?”

Eshoo continued, “I also would like to know how can ratepayers be confident that you’re putting safety first when you’ve only hardened three percent—three percent—of your systems in high risk areas.”

To watch Congresswoman Eshoo’s questions, click HERE.

To read Congresswoman Eshoo's statement for the record, click PDF iconHERE.

BACKGROUND

The two most destructive fires in Californian history, including the 2018 Camp Fire which killed 85 people and destroyed over 18,000 buildings, were linked to PG&E’s equipment. In 2019, PG&E began intentional preemptive blackouts, officially known as “Public Safety Power Shutoffs” (PSPS), to mitigate the risks of faulty power lines starting wildfires.

In total, PSPS caused 3 million Californians to lose power across nine blackouts, which collectively cost the Californian economy $10 billion according to Michael Wara of the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment. Rep. Eshoo has called for PG&E to uphold its responsibility to harden its systems against increased wildfire risks and fulfill their obligation to provide uninterrupted power to ratepayers.

Rep. Eshoo introduced the Smoke Planning and Research Act to provide federal funding to help communities research, develop, and implement plans to help mitigate the adverse health effects of wildfire smoke by:

  • Establishing four Centers of Excellence at institutions of higher education to ensure that research is responsive to the challenges that people face on the ground.
  • Authorizing $20 million in research funding through the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to study the public health impacts of wildfire smoke and effective responses.
  • Creating a grant program at EPA to help local communities plan and respond to wildfire smoke.

An advocate for strengthened infrastructure during wildfires, Rep. Eshoo introduced the WIRED Act to allow states to require wireless companies to deploy infrastructure that will be resilient enough to support all cell phone networks during disasters. Currently, states do not have the explicit authority to require wireless companies to deploy resilient infrastructure for their wireless network.

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